Doug Mataconis describes this large amount of money:
To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in land-locked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than “improved goat trails,” Anderson says. “And you’ve got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.”
Anderson calculates more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack. Free-standing tents equipped with air conditioners in 125 degree heat require a lot of fuel. Anderson says by making those structures more efficient, the military could save lives and dollars.
But since her earliest days, America has inspired people from all over the world. Inspired them with the hope that one day their own countries would be one like this one.
And so he begins his smug parade of looking down on the rest of the world.
I know that now some say that times are so tough here at home that we can no longer afford to worry about what happens abroad. That maybe America needs to mind its own business.
Well, whether we like it or not, there is virtually no aspect of our daily lives that is not directly impacted by what happens in the world around us. We can choose to ignore global problems, but global problems will not ignore us.
Almost half a century later, America is still the only watchman on the wall of world freedom. And there is still no one to take our place.
What will the world look like if America declines?
Well, today people all over the world are forced to accept the familiar lie that the price of security is our liberty. If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?
Today, radical Islam abuses and oppresses women. It has no tolerance for other faiths, and it seeks to impose its will on the whole world. If America declines, who will stand up to them and defeat them?
Today, children are used as soldiers and trafficked as slaves. Dissidents are routinely imprisoned without trial. They’re subjected to torture and forced into confessions and labor. If America declines, what nation on the earth will take these causes as their own?
And if America declines, who will do all these things and ask for nothing in return? Motivated solely by the desire to make the world a better place?
The answer is no one will. There is still no nation or institution on this planet that is willing or able to do what America has done.
Is this a call to an ongoing interventionalist streak in the world? Can we afford interventionalist wars? Can we fight these threats on our own soil? Where is the line? Larison puts this part of Rubio’s speech into perspective:
Whenever Rubio refers to American decline, we need to remember that what he means by this is that the U.S. will not attack other countries, intervene in their internal conflicts, or attempt to dictate the pace and content of political developments abroad as much as the U.S. does right now. In other words, what Rubio calls decline is what many of us would call a return to normal, or at least a reduction in the number and frequency of foreign conflicts and entanglements. What Rubio calls American decline is what many other nations around the world would refer to as being left alone.
In fact, the decline Rubio describes won’t prevent the U.S. from being that “living proof” of the co-existence of liberty, security, and prosperity. It is quite conceivable that both American liberty and security would be enhanced when our government concentrates its “defense” policies on nothing but the defense of the U.S. and those allies that America will have for limited periods of time. There are many states that already combat jihadist militants on their own soil at great cost, and because most of them are fighting largely in self-defense they are going to continue doing so no matter what the U.S. does or does not do. Something that believers in Rubio’s particular version of American exceptionalism seem to take for granted is that the rest of the world is largely hopeless without constant, direct American involvement in their affairs. If that was ever true, it isn’t any longer.
Finally, you gotta love this line from the tail end of Rubio’s speech:
You see, these nations, these new emerging nations, these new shining cities, we hope they will join us, but they can never replace us. Because their light is but a reflection of our own.
Larison claims that “it is flattering to us to believe that other successful nations have become successful only by basking in the reflected glory of American light.” Indeed.
Glenn Greenwald analyzes in light of the headlines everywhere (most notably in the NY Times):
President Obama plans to announce his decision on the scale and pace of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in a speech on Wednesday evening . . . Mr. Obama is considering options that range from a Pentagon-backed proposal to pull out only 5,000 troops this year to an aggressive plan to withdraw within 12 months all 30,000 troops the United States deployed to Afghanistan as part of the surge in December 2009.. . . .
Even after all 30,000 troops are withdrawn, roughly 68,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan, twice the number as when Mr. Obama assumed office.
Emphasis by G.G. His remarks:
So even under the most “aggressive” withdrawal plan the President is considering — one that he and media outlets will undoubtedly tout as a “withdrawal plan” (the headline on the NYT front page today: “Obama to Announce Plans for Afghan Pullout”) — there will still be “twice the number” of American troops in that country as there were when George Bush left office and Obama was inaugurated. That’s what “withdrawal” means in American political parlance: doubling the number of troops fighting a foreign war over the course of four years.
Many people on the left have debated the speed of which Obama should pull out of Afghanistan. This is in light of almost all lawmakers siding with withdrawing troops and top military officials opposing a swift withdraw.
“Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is pretty simple. It says, ‘Raise an army.’ It says absolutely nothing about race, color, creed, sexual orientation. … Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines,” –Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett, the top non-commissioned officer of the Marine Corps, on the repeal of DADT.
H/T: Andrew Sullivan
The Economist captions:
ON JUNE 8th China’s top military brass confirmed that the
country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbishment of an old Russian carrier, will be ready shortly. Only a handful of nations operate
carriers, which are costly to build and maintain. Indeed, Britain has recently decommissioned its sole carrier because of budget pressures. China’s defence spending has risen by nearly 200% since
2001 to reach an estimated $119 billion in 2010—though it has remained fairly constant in terms of its share of GDP. America’s own budget crisis is prompting tough discussions about its defence spending, which, at nearly $700 billion, is bigger than that of the next 17 countries combined.
AllGov shows what domestic programs we could spend the $7.6 trillion defense budget since 2001 on:
Fill the Medicare Gap: If Congress redirected just one-fifth of the budget increases from 2000 to 2011 for defense spending, it would be enough to eliminate the long-term budget hole in the Medicare program.Fund Head Start for 15 Years: Instead of 10 years of warfare in Afghanistan, the U.S. could have secured 15.6 years of early childhood education and support through Head Start for the same price.Insure the Uninsured: Another way to spend the Afghanistan war chest would be on the uninsured. The budget for fighting the Taliban is enough to cover every American without health insurance for 1.7 years.Help State Capitols: A total of 46 states are facing budget shortfalls this fiscal year. Collectively, they need about $130 billion. Ending the war in Afghanistan and getting entirely out of Iraq would save $170 billion—more than enough to wipe out the red ink from Albany to Sacramento.Instead of Iraq…: Even with the end of combat operations in Iraq, the U.S. is still spending $50 billion annually to maintain a large contingent of troops in the country. For this same amount of money, Washington could ensure a year’s worth of health care for 24.3 million poor children, or salaries for more than 725,000 elementary school teachers or nearly 830,000 firefighters.
Conor Friedersdorf makes the case:
Give the hawks their due: terrorism is an ongoing threat to the United States. In fact, it’s likely to pose a bigger threat with every year that passes, insofar as technological advances are permitting people with meager resources to obtain ever deadlier weapons. Heaven forbid they get a nuke or a killer virus. What the hawks fail to recognize, however, is that perpetual war poses a bigger threat to the citizenry of a superpower than does terrorism. Already it is helping to bankrupt us financially,undermining our civil liberties, corroding our values, triggering abusive prosecutions, empoweringthe executive branch in ways that are anathema to the system of checks and balances implemented by the Founders, and causing us to degrade one another.
Alas, we still have an ambiguous exit strategy from the Middle East.
Along with a tsunami-like downturn in the global economy have brought America to the point of over $14 trillion in debt (not Planned Parenthood or welfare checks).
Andrew J. Bacevich gives his take on supporting our troops as they continue to embark into two wars without ends in sight:
Members of the civil-military-corporate elite find war more than tolerable. Within its ranks, as Chris Hedges has noted, war imparts meaning and excitement to life. It serves as a medium through which ambitions are fulfilled and power is accrued and exercised. In Washington, the benefits offered by war’s continuation easily outweigh any benefits to be gained by ending war. So why bother to try?
As the 10th anniversary of what Americans once called their Global War on Terror approaches, a plausible, realistic blueprint for bringing that enterprise to a conclusion does not exist. Those who might once have felt some responsibility for articulating such a plan—the president, his chief lieutenants, senior military leaders—no longer feel any obligation to do so. As a practical matter, they devote themselves to war’s perpetuation, closing one front while opening another. More strikingly still, we the people allow our leaders to evade this basic responsibility to articulate a plan for peace. By implication, we endorse the unspoken assumption that peace has become implausible.
In a way, patriotism and the ambiguous “protect America” mantra have trumped peace because, well, we live in a “fallen world”.
An hour and a half discussion on CIA torture methods moderated by a non-convicted war criminal from the Bush II presidency, John Yoo.
Is Rick Santorum that patriotic (caring so much to protect our country at the cost of breaking down another human being) that he has formed a level of cognitive dissonance? He is a Catholic yet agrees with using torture on our enemies. Here is the rub that doesn’t add up:
Catholic bishops described torture as an assault on the dignity of human life and an “intrinsic evil” in their 2007 statement Faithful Citizenship. (For a more in depth look at intrinsic evil and political responsibility read this essay by Cathleen Kaveny of the University of Notre Dame in America magazine.) “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism,” the bishops wrote in Faithful Citizenship. As Kyle R. Kupp points out over at Vox Nova, Pope Paul VI described such acts as “infamies” that “poison society,” do “supreme dishonor to the Creator,” and “do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from injury.”
Glenn Greenwald explains a major reason why many Middle Eastern denizens hate America. Hint: it isn’t because of our freedoms but because of NATO strikes that killed three children in four days:
Just imagine the accumulated hatred from having things like this happen day after day, week after week, year after year, for a full decade now, with no end in sight — broadcast all over the region. It’s literally impossible to convey in words the level of bloodthirsty fury and demands for vengeance that would arise if a foreign army were inside the U.S. killing innocent American children even a handful of times, let alone continuously for a full decade.
It’s the perfect self-perpetuating cycle: (1) They hate us and want to attack us because we’re over there; therefore, (2) we have to stay and proliferate ourselves because they hate us and want to attack us; (3) our staying and proliferating ourselves makes them hate us and want to attack us more; therefore, (4) we can never leave, because of how much they hate us and want to attack us. The beauty of this War on Terror — and, as the last two weeks have demonstrated, War is the bipartisan consensus for what we are and should be doing to address Terrorism — is that it forever sustains its own ostensible cause.
For the war hawks, many of whom are Republicans, you may see this as a pro-life war in that it protects your life and your families life and ensures your freedoms, etc. This is not pro-life for all of the innocent deaths in every war.
“…everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative”, Rick Santorum as he calls out former prisoner of war and tortured soldier John McCain for not understanding torture and its role in American foreign policy. (emphasis mine in the quote).
Foreign policy aside, what does the emphasized quote by Santorum say about treating others made in the image of God? Santorum, sadly, may on purpose conflate torture with Christianity.
Some news on our toxic relationship with Pakistan and their military:
Despite mounting pressure from the United States since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden,Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, seems unlikely to respond to American demands to root out other militant leaders, according to people who have met with him in the last 10 days.
While the general does not want to abandon the alliance completely, he is more likely to pursue a strategy of decreasing Pakistan’s reliance on the United States, and continuing to offer just enough cooperation to keep the billions of dollars in American aid flowing, said a confidant of the general who has spoken with him recently.
Mind you, we have provided $20 billion since 2001 (that figure doesn’t include covert aid) to Pakistan. This article is worth a full read; it’s quite interesting.
This also includes costs of war (hat tip to Sojourners):
- Financial: The U.S. is spending more than $100 billion per year in Afghanistan
- Human: 1,570 Americans killed, more than 10,000 wounded
- More than 10,000 civilian Afghan deaths, 3,000 in 2010 alone.
Innocent civilians / bystanders are almost the invisible warriors in this war and many others of yore. They are forgotten in our news cycle and in our lamentations. This is not to downplay the deaths of our men and women in uniform, but they are not the worst hit group in times of war. Check war deaths since WW2 and the Civil War. Quantum drops in military casualties.
For the torture hawks out there:
“Listen, waterboarding and/or other coercive techniques did nothing to contribute to our attempts to track down OBL (Osama bin Laden). What did succeed was weeks, months and years of diligent, laborious, and dedicated work – all within the bounds of legal and ethical boundaries … No torture, no waterboarding, no coercion – nothing inhumane – is considered a useful tool in our work…
I cannot even count the amount of times that I personally have come face to face with detainees, who told me they were primarily motivated to do what they did, because of hearing that we committed torture.
Even the rumor of torture is enough to convince an army of uneducated and illiterate, yet religiously motivated young boys to strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves up while killing whoever happens to be around – police, soldiers, civilians, women, or children. Torture committed by Americans in the past continues to kill Americans today,” – a seniorUS interrogator in Afghanistan.
Whether or not torturing (or it’s euphemism “enhanced interagation techniques” (EIT) lead America Navy Seals to OBL, it strips humans of their dignity and God-given image.
Now that that is out of the way, I want to confront this ideology mix-up. When the Khmer Rouge (the architects of the Killing Field in Cambodia) tortured, we called it inhumane and torture. When the Nazi’s tortured Jews, we called it inhumane and torture. When America tortures terrorist suspects (while there are more effective legal alternatives out there), we call it “protecting our country”, “defending liberty”, “fighting terrorists”, or some other Americanized slogan that could go on a bumper sticker.
I want to know why we don’t see our torture as what it is: torture. It isn’t any nice, prettier, or better if we do it, too. We will go down in history as torturing and we have little room to condemn others (even radical Muslims who torture Americans and their own). An eye for an eye, even when doing it for “just” causes, leaves all blind.
This all reminds me of the death penalty and the war on terror. We kill people who kill people to show that killing people is bad. We torture people who torture people to try to attain some righteous outcome. That doesn’t sound like logical math to me.
I just finished Marcus Borg’s new book Speaking Christian. It is, as all of his books that I have read, very readable (not very wordy or heavy on technical/fluffy terminology) and relevant to not only Christians but those of other faith paths. I hope this post can be accessed by those readers of my blog that adhere to other religions beyond Christianity.
In the final pages of Speaking Christian, Borg summarizes what the heart of Christianity should be centered on. In that summary, he delves into what imperial American has become. Think about the following:
We are the most Christian country in the world – and yet we are the world’s greatest military power. With 5 percent of the world’s population, we account for about half of the world’s spending. We have over 700 military bases in about 130 countries. Our navy is as powerful as the next thirteen navies of the world combined. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Air Force is the most powerful air force. More surprising is the second most powerful air force: the U.S. Navy. As a country, we are determined to be as militarily powerful as the rest of the world put together. Though our national motto is “In God We Trust”, clearly what we really trust in is power, especially military power.
Borg does not end there:
We are the most Christian nation in the world – and yet we have the greatest income inequality of any of the developed nations to whom we typically compare ourselves. Our income is – literally – almost off the charts. On the graphs portraying it in relation to that of other industrial nations, we are almost an outlier. Moreover, income inequality in America has been growing for about thirty years. The wealthy have become more wealthy and powerful, and the middle and lower economic classes have seen their well-being decline – in the most Christian country on the globe.
Borg finishes with a final question:
Are we as a nation to become more and more like the domination systems of the ancient and not so distant past, all of which have passed into history? Or might we, as the most Christian nation in the world, change our course and become committed to compassion, justice, and peace?
This short bit is what I try to get across – both explicitly and in less explicit terms – in each of my blog posts and in my outlook towards life and the world. The domination system is what Jesus stood up against. Jesus eating meals with outcasts broke the mold between the clean and unclean. He was killed by the rulers of the world, the powers that were. That comes first and before him dying for our sins (which Jesus never speaks of).
Caring for this world that we have is so much more important than looking to the rapture, the next life, heaven, or the second coming. If we focus on those four, this life will easily seem pointless, addressing the injustices will seem futile, and the gospels will be defanged, domesticated, and mostly muted.